Your Health

Your General Health

Diet

Eating a balanced diet is one of the best ways to maintain your health. Eating at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day can:

  • reduce the risk of serious lifestyle health issues such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke and some cancers
  • reduce the risk of bowel cancer due to the high fibre content
  • contribute to a healthy and balanced diet, help you maintain a healthy weight and keep your heart healthy

In addition to plenty of fruit and veg, we should also be eating:

  • plenty of starchy foods, such as bread, rice, potatoes and pasta
  • some meat, fish, eggs, beans and other non-dairy sources of protein
  • some milk and dairy foods
  • just a small amount of food and drinks that are high in fat and/or sugar
  • drinking 8-10 200ml glasses of water a day (or more when exercising or in the heat)

For more information:

British Heart Foundation (opens in a new tab) 

British Dietetic Association (opens in a new tab)  


Smoking

If you smoke, stopping will really improve your health. After just 24 hours your lungs will start to clear, and you can start to breathe more easily and have more energy. In the longer run you’ll also be less stressed, have younger looking skin and whiter teeth, and your sense of smell and taste will improve. After one year your chance of having a heart attack is half that of a smoker and after 10 years your risk of lung cancer is half.

Stop Smoking Wales (opens in a new tab)

Gives free, non-judgmental support from advisors. You are four times more likely to quit with a support programme than going it alone.
Tel: 0800 085 2219

You can also get help from your local pharmacy.

Being around second hand smoke can also increase your chances of having a heart attack or developing breathing problems and lung cancer. Make sure smokers in your house smoke outside, and that you have a smoke free car. 

Alcohol

Drinking alcohol in moderation can be safe and enjoyable, but too much can lead to health and/or social problems. Drinking less reduces your risk of heart disease, cancer and liver damage, and you’ll be less likely to have an accident. To stay healthy:

  • The recommended safe limit for men and women is not more than fourteen units/week spread evenly over three or more days. 
  • If you've had a heavy drinking session, avoid alcohol and driving for 48 hours

('Regularly' means drinking this amount every day or most days of the week)

A small glass of wine (125ml) has 1.5 units. A pint of lower strength (3.6% abv) beer, lager or cider has 2 units. A single shot (25ml) of 40% spirit has 1 unit.

If you regularly drink more than the recommended amount, try swapping your usual for a smaller drink or lower strength drink, a soft drink, a later drink or a meal time only drink. You can also try:

  • Spending more time with people who don't drink or drink very little – meet friends or join a club.
  • Taking up a new hobby or interest
  • Having a warm drink rather than an alcoholic one to help you sleep

Help and support is available. If you’re concerned about your own, or someone else’s alcohol use, call 03303 639 997 for free telephone support from the local Dyfed Drug & Alcohol Service (DDAS) or drop them an email to confidential@d-das.co.uk

You should avoid alcohol if you're ill or feeling cold, avoid drinking on an empty stomach and try to have at least two alcohol free days a week. If you are on medication from the doctor, some should not be taken with alcohol as their effect will be reduced or stopped altogether. Ask your GP or pharmacist if you are unsure

For more information: NHS (opens in a new tab)  


Falls

The risk of falling increases with age. Falls can lead to pain, distress, injury, loss of confidence - and loss of independence. There is plenty you can do to prevent falls. One of the best ways to stay 'fall free' is to exercise regularly so that you have good balance and a good walking style. Balance exercises and activities that improve muscle strength in your legs, arms, back, shoulders and chest are especially helpful. 

If you have a fall, talk to your GP. Tell them about your fall, when it happened and how it happened. Ask if you can have some help to reduce your risk of falling again. A number of factors could be contributing to the problem ranging from medical conditions to inappropriate footwear (see Maintaining Independence for more ways to prevent falling in your home) 

Find out more about your risk of a fall and advice to prevent falls:

Age Cymru (opens in a new tab)  

Oral Health

A healthy mouth can add to your general health. If you have any pain or problems related to your teeth or dentures, or you notice an unexplained lump, red and white patches, or an ulcer which does not heal in your mouth, you should see your dentist as soon as possible.

Whether you have your own teeth or wear dentures, you should get regular check-ups with a dentist, at least every two years. NHS Direct can provide information about dentists in your area. Dental examinations are free in Wales if you are under 25 years of age or if you are 60 years of age or over.

If you fall into any of following categories you will not need to pay for your NHS dental treatment:

  • you or your partner are receiving Income Support, Universal Credit, Income-based Jobseeker's Allowance, Income-related Employment & Support Allowance or Pension Credit Guarantee Credit
  • you are named on a Tax Credit NHS Exemption Certificate
  • you are named on an NHS HC2 certificate for full help with health costs.

If you have your own natural teeth you should brush twice a day with fluoride toothpaste to prevent decay. Fluoride mouthwash, interdental brushes (small brushes to clean in-between teeth) and floss can be used as well as your toothbrush.

Even if you don’t have any teeth, you should still brush your gums and tongue with a soft brush. If you wear dentures it is important that you clean them at least twice a day, and it’s best to remove them at night to give your mouth a chance to rest. You can protect your teeth by eating a healthy balanced diet, and by cutting down on sugary and acidic food and drink. You should only eat sugary and acidic foods and drinks at mealtimes, and no more than four times a day. ‘Sugar free’ or ‘low sugar’, drinks can still work to dissolve the outer surface of your teeth due to the acid content. Milk and water are the safest drinks for your teeth. You should also watch the number of alcoholic drinks you consume.

For more information:

British Dental Health Foundation (opens in a new tab)

Tel: 01788 539780  (dental helpline) 

NHS (opens in a new tab) 

Sight

Adding a regular sight test to your life is important. Every two years is ideal. If you are aged 60 or over or meet other criteria (see ‘Optometrists’ in this chapter) you are entitled to a free NHS sight test. You should seek help immediately from an optometrist or from a hospital accident and emergency department if you:

  • Have a sudden change in vision
  • Lose all or part of your vision in one or both eyes
  • Have an accident involving your eyes
  • Suddenly start seeing flashing lights or floaters in your vision

Quitting smoking and eating healthy foods are simple steps you can take to reduce your risk of sight loss. Always protect your eyes in the sun, and if you wear contacts make sure you look after them properly. If you work with hazardous or airborne materials, wear safety goggles to protect your eyes from injury, and if you work with a computer screen take regular breaks to keep your eyes feeling fresh and bright.

For more information:

Wales Eye Care Service (opens in a new tab)  Tel 01267 248793 

Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) (opens in a new tab)   Helpline: 0303 123 9999 

Hearing

Hearing loss is common, and will affect about 90% of us in our lifetimes. Acting early can add to your life, and can help you communicate better with family and friends and enjoy social situations much more. Not all types of hearing loss can be prevented, but by following the advice below you may reduce your risk of noise-induced hearing loss:

  • Don't have your television, radio or music on too loud.
    If you can't have a comfortable conversation with someone who is two metres away from you, turn the volume down. You shouldn't have dull hearing or ringing in your ears after listening to music.
  • Use headphones that block out more outside noise, rather turning up the volume. You can buy add-ons for your existing headphones that block out more outside noise.
  • Use ear protection equipment such as ear muffs or ear plugs if you spend time in a noisy environment or at noisy events, for example a pub, nightclub, a garage workshop or on a building site.
  • Don't insert objects into your ears. This includes fingers, cotton buds, cotton wool and tissue.
  • Be aware of the symptoms of common causes of hearing loss, such as ear infections and Ménière's disease 
  • Visit your GP if you are experiencing hearing problems.  

Flu

Getting a flu jab every year can protect you from flu and harmful complications for a year. The flu jab is free to people who are at higher risk. You should have a flu jab every year if you:

  • Are 65 years old or over
  • Are pregnant
  • Have a serious medical condition
  • Are living in a long-stay residential care home or other long-stay care facility
  • Are in receipt of a carer's allowance, or are the main carer for someone who may be at risk if you fall ill
  • Are a member of a voluntary organisation providing planned emergency first aid or a Community First Responder
  • Are a health and social care staff member directly involved in the care of patients or clients
  • Live with someone with a weakened immune system
  • Contact your GP about getting a flu jab if you meet any of the above criteria.

Find out more at: Flu (opens in a new tab)  

Screening

Screening can reduce your risk of dying from cancer or other health problem by detecting it early, often when there are no symptoms. The following types of screening are offered in Wales:

Cervical screening

In Wales, women from the age of 25 are invited for screening every three years and women aged 50-64 are invited every five years. Get your cervical smear test at your local GP surgery or sexual health clinic.If you are unsure where to find these clinics, you can telephone NHS Direct Wales on 0845 4647.

Breast screening

Women aged 50-70 are invited for a breast X-ray every three years. Women over the age of 70 can ask for a screening appointment.
Screening is carried out in mobile screening units. The units visit over 100 sites in Wales so that women can be screened close to home, and are accessible to women using wheelchairs. For more information visit Breast Test Wales, or telephone NHS Direct Wales on 0845 46 47

Bowel screening 

Currently offered to men and women in Wales aged between 60 and 74 years old. You will be invited to take part every two years. When you are due for screening a test kit will be sent through the post. You will be able to carry out the test at home and in private.

For further information or if you have any concerns about the test contact the NHS Helpline on 0800 294 3370.

Abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) screening

An AAA is a swelling of the aorta, the main blood vessel that supplies blood to the body. Sometimes the wall of the aorta in the abdomen can become weak and stretch to form an aneurysm. When this happens there is a risk that the aorta may split or tear (rupture).

Men aged 65 are invited for a one-off ultrasound screening test. Women are not invited for screening as they are far less likely to have an AAA. There is a high risk of dying from a ruptured AAA so finding an aneurysm early gives the best chance of treatment and survival. AAA screening is carried out in community clinics. For more information go to AAA screening or speak to your GP.

Skin

Regularly checking your own skin is important because finding skin cancer early saves lives. It Most changes to your skin are not cancer, but if you find anything unusual on your skin that doesn’t go away after four to six weeks, or a mole or patch of skin that is changing shape or getting bigger, you should get your doctor to look at them. 

You can reduce your risk of skin cancer by:

  • Avoiding sun as much as possible when it is strongest- between 11am-3pm
  • Covering up your skin as much as possible in the sunshine
  • Using a high factor sunscreen (always use factor 15 and above)

You can find further information and advice by completing the online assessment tool at Cancer Research UK (opens in a new tab). See also NHS for the mole symptom checker (opens in a new tab) if you are concerned about a mole on your skin.

If you are worried about cancer call the Tenovus cancer support line on 0808 808 1010, or the Cancer Research UK helpline on 0808 800 4040.

Stroke

A stroke is a brain attack. It happens when the blood supply to part of your brain is cut off. Blood carries essential nutrients and oxygen to your brain. Without blood, your brain cells can be damaged or destroyed and they won’t be able to do their job. Signs of a stroke are very sudden. Symptoms include:

  • Numbness, weakness or paralysis on one side of your body (signs of this may be a drooping arm, leg or lower eyelid, or a dribbling mouth)
  • Slurred speech or difficulty finding words or understanding speech
  • Sudden blurred vision or loss of sight
  • Confusion or unsteadiness
  • Sudden, severe headache

If you suspect a stroke, thinking FAST (Face, Arm, Speech, Time) can help

  • Facial weakness – can the person smile? Has the mouth or eye drooped?
  • Arm weakness – can the person raise both arms?
  • Speech problems – can the person speak clearly and understand what you say?
  • Time – to call 999

Making some simple changes to your lifestyle can significantly reduce your risk of stroke in the future, like quitting smoking, drinking less alcohol, eating healthily, and staying active.

For more information:

Stroke Association Helpline (opens in a new tab): 03033033100  

NHS (opens in a new tab)  

Heart

Heart disease is linked to things like high blood pressure, lack of physical activity, smoking, diabetes, high blood cholesterol, and poor diet.

You can reduce your risk of heart disease by making a few simple changes to your lifestyle, whatever your age. Taking exercise, eating a healthy diet, and being aware of dangers like smoking, drinking, high blood pressure and stress are all important for your long term heart health. You should also make sure you take any medicines prescribed by your doctor.

If you think you could be at risk of heart disease, you can get a heart health assessment or cardiovascular risk assessment by your GP or practice nurse. This is available to anyone over 50. They can advise you how to keep your heart healthy, and consider treatment like medicine to protect your heart.

You can get more information from the British Heart Foundation (opens in a new tab)  Tel: 0300 330 33 11.

Diabetes

Diabetes is a lifelong condition that causes a person's blood sugar level to become too high. There are two main types of diabetes, referred to as type 1 and type 2, with 90% of people who have diabetes having type 2. Type 2 diabetes usually affects people over the age of 40.

While the exact cause of type 2 diabetes is not fully understood, factors such as obesity and being overweight can contribute. Taking measures to achieve or maintain a healthy weight and lifestyle can help prevent the disease.

Contact Diabetes UK (opens in a new tab)  

Helpline: 0845 120 2960 

Sexual Health

Research shows that people right up into their eighties are more sexually active these days, so reliable information and advice is essential. 

For more information:

NHS (opens in a new tab)

FPA (Family Planning Association) (opens in a new tab) 

Memory

Many of us notice that our memory gets worse as we get older. It can be difficult to tell whether this is a sign of an underlying condition like dementia.

The term 'dementia' describes a set of symptoms which includes loss of memory, mood changes and problems with communication and reasoning. These symptoms occur when the brain is damaged by certain diseases, including Alzheimer's disease and damage caused by a series of small strokes. Symptoms of dementia may include:

  • Loss of memory. This particularly affects short-term memory, like forgetting what happened earlier in the day, not being able to recall conversations, being repetitive or forgetting the way home. Long-term memory is usually still quite good
  • Mood changes. People with dementia may be withdrawn, sad, frightened or angry about what is happening to them
  • Communication problems. These include difficulty in finding the right words for things, for example describing the function of an item instead of naming it

For advice and support

Alzheimers Society (opens in a new tab)

 

ID: 10418, revised 20/02/2024
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